Overloaded with sleaze, smut, and skin, Judge Bill Gibron argues that this tawdry triple feature is one of the best Something Weird Video releases in a long time.
When sex goes bad…
Dolores is a dancer in Batista's Havana, a smutty little strutter who fancies herself an "artist." Her act consists of bopping around, dropping various articles of clothing, and shaking her skin flaps while looking enflamed. Talk about your vain Van Gogh! No sooner does Castro take over than the slutty seniorita is sold into off-white slavery. Before making her way to New York, she is taught the ways of wickedness by Xavier Cugat's celebrity imposter. Lorna and Candy have similar stories. The only difference is that Lorna misunderstands the concept of "erotic" in erotic dancing and is raped in the back of a truck for her efforts. Candy must lament her loss of innocence while shots of the Nazi blitz of Britain blow off in her brain (it's a memory from childhood—she's not that old). Naturally, they both end up giving their goodies to members of the mafia stooge set. Finally we learn how Monica went from street-corner pickup to a same-sex session of Sappho slobbering. As Dolores does a far more miserable fan dance for her fellow freelance fornicators, our "zero gals" get their dire depression on. Unfortunately, when you're part of The Sin Syndicate, life can be pretty cheap—and oh so meaningless.
Across town, a group of 25-year-old "kids" are out to have "fun and games" (obvious JD slang for the commission of multiple capital offenses) and they decide that a local housewife is their ticket to tawdriness. Before you can say Death Wish, the gang has crashed the joint, rummaged through the groceries, and defiled the tootsie rolls! When Suzy Homemaker walks in on the scene, she is in for a surprise—and a gang bang. Thus begins a manic softcore shuffle. There is sex in the bedroom, sex on the kitchen floor, sex in a car, and sex in a full-sized Greyhound. See, the hoods grow weary of screwing inside the comfort of a house. After hijacking a bus, one of them drives around aimlessly as the rest get to rumbling in air-conditioned comfort. They eventually pick up some gals who are headed out to do some shopping. Instead, they "do" something quite different as it's The Last Bus Stop on the Left time. Our heroines get hornswaggled to within an inch of their garter belted lives. Of course, these "thrill seekers" grow weary of leaving the driving to one of them and head back to the house. After all, since She Came on the Bus, their purpose has more or less been fulfilled.
Bill has just returned from Europe after serving in the army—and he's brought along a little bit of easy Euro-trash to give his siblings groin gastritis. The twisted, tripwire Ross - who has been having nightmares about his face being cleaved in two—is playing around on Pat, his money-hungry harpy of a wife, but once he sees Lisa, his libido clashes with his lunacy and, suddenly, he's a crazed creep with mayhem—and sexual battery—on his brain. Their other brother, Otis, takes the photos for the sibling's scandalous Sin Magazine, and he's up to his hips in available model meat. His preferred method of monkey lovin' is the half-night's stand. He expects his conquests to hit the bricks even before dawn has a chance to splinter. Of course, he, too, finds Bill's babe utterly approachable and it's not long before business meets pleasure meets mass murder. Tempers flare, the subscription rate falls, and everyone is after a little continental conquest and carnality. It all leads up to what has to be one of the oddest endings ever in an exploitation film.
What is it about Michael Findlay and his oeuvre of outstandingly fusty films that fires the exploitation imagination? This decadent director, responsible for what is perhaps the gold standard in violent skin flicks, the Flesh Trilogy (The Touch of Her Flesh, The Kiss of Her Flesh, and The Curse of Her Flesh) loves to make his movies into the most miserable, depressing, and perverted experiences one can imagine. The Sin Syndicate is no exception. Over the course of this crazy narrative, we learn about the hard-knock life of "zero girls," gals who use their bodies to provide aid and comfort to the gin-fueled and tobacco-tanked. Each of our quartet of roughshod rug-burners gets to tell their story, and when it comes to commonality, these dames got it in sexual-servitude spades. Mesmerizing—just not in the ways you expect, The Sin Syndicate becomes a cinematic jigsaw. Trying to figure out what Michael Findlay wanted to say in this cobbled-together collection of stripteases, dubbed dialogue, and stock footage of the Cuban Revolution (?) would keep members of MENSA up at night wondering in confused conniptions. The sacrifice in logic is electric, the lack of a coherent concept subversively brilliant. The movie starts out as a racketeering expose, but once the greasy crime boss at the center of the skirt storm tells the Congress to kiss his Fifth Amendment-ed keister, the movie turns into a flashback-filled foray into the dead-end dramas of four hired whores, each story more sordid and seedier than the next.
Still, the sensational Syndicate can't hold a corrupted candle to She Came On the Bus. Talk about your fudged-up films! This blight on polite society is like someone's idea of a stark realistic drama, filled with all manner of cinematic forewarning and somber narrative distress. However, what co-directors Curt Ledger and Harry Vincent really want to accomplish here is the creation of the next big-buck passion-pit play date. Certainly Bus looks like an "untamed youth on the loose" lesson, but it's definitely one of the lesser examples of the anti-social-spree spirit (this is no Just For the Hell of It, let's make that crystal clear). Indeed, this is more akin to standard Pussycat Club propaganda, with the narrative functioning as a guidepost for consistent corpus-to-corpus crackalacking. Most of the actors are awkward and amused, covering up smiles that destroy the dynamic of dread. Once you've seen a sequence of pre-peacenik proles doing the dirty deed in a lumbering land cruiser, you've had your booty-bopping fill. Still, with its unique approach (who ever thought about turning an exploitation film into a moveable flesh feast???) and a super fine sampling of skin, this is another tarnished treasure in the SWV oeuvre.
Like a soiled Southern Gothic relocated to the tree-dappled Northeast, Sin Magazine is a puerile Peyton Place with all its overheated hinting and mega-melodrama moodiness. Since it relies so heavily on its dialogue and potboiler narrative, you'd think this shallow shocker would have little time for nudity—and you'd be right. This is probably the first film about flesh peddling where the naked female form is tertiary to all the silent seething and clipped conversations going on. Even when Bill steps up and seduces a publishing assistant in a bid for his magazine's national distribution, nothing happens. We get more randiness in an episode of The Real World. Ross's former mistress drops robe a couple of times, allowing us to witness a rather ample rump roped into some granny panties, but that's about it. You want this movie to expose the world of girls gone glamour shot, and provide the kind of bountiful bodkin that makes a trip to the sleazy side that much more memorable. The only thing unforgettable here is the strange, almost surreal sense of filmmaking. Al Mitchel, in his one-and-only movie, adds odd little touches (a screeching close-up of a cat, a first-person POV sequence) and a raucous rock and roll soundtrack to what should be some oversexed serialized drama. Instead of being a sudser, however, this is a psychotic-relative-gone-postal panorama, with the closing bloodbath almost noir-esque in its execution.
For those unfamiliar with the Something Weird way of DVD construction, a triple feature usually means that the normal wealth of bonus features is cut back substantially. Sadly, this is the case here. We get a collection of trailers and the standard sexploitation gallery with radio ad rarities playing in the background. On the technical side, all three movies suffer from rarity remastery syndrome, meaning that the original stock elements were so shoddy that, even with the company's excellent track record with transfers, these films look flawed. She Came on the Bus is probably the worst, the 1.33:1 image being far too bright and borderline solarized. It is not unwatchable, but it pales in comparison to its companions. The Sin Syndicate has some initial editing errors, but then settles down to deliver a dark and brooding full-frame monochrome vista. Sin Magazine probably looks best, with a kind of 4x3 crispness and clear black-and-white dichotomy that's hard to hate.
Females have their sisters in feminism to thank for their eventual emancipation from the shackles of male domination—and pornographic paternalism. After watching the trio of tawdry tales here, it's clear that said liberation was a tad late in arriving.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
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